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Deleting a public record in Florida involves partially or completely removing a specific record from public view. This implies that the record becomes restricted at the state and county repositories and the record subject can deny the existence of the deleted record. However, versions of the records are still accessible by authorized persons; hence it is technically impossible to completely delete public records. Florida allows the deletion of public records through expungement or sealing. Any individual in Florida can have their public records deleted by applying to their County Clerk of Circuit Court & Comptroller. The application to have a public record deleted should be made in writing and delivered to the Clerk of Circuit Court and Comptroller by mail, in person, or electronically, depending on the medium acceptable by the county in question.
The application must state the title of the document, the case number, and the identification page number of the document containing the number to be redacted. In some counties, fees are not charged for the removal of complete bank accounts or social security numbers, or credit card numbers. However, it is essential to contact the Clerk of Circuit Court & Comptroller to determine what is obtained in the county where the record originates.
For Florida criminal and arrest record expungement, it is required that the person seeking an expungement obtains the Certificate of Eligibility from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) and petitions the court for an order to seal or expunge a specific record.
Some reasons individuals may want their public records deleted include:
- The record contains confidential details such as social security numbers, medical and financial information.
- The record contains certain sensitive information that may expose the record subjectâ€™s life and property to danger
- The record contains information on a minor
- The record qualifies for an expungement after a specified number of years have passed following their conviction
- The record breaches their privacy rights
What is a Public Record in Florida?
Florida Public Records Act Section 119.011 defines public records as all documents, letters, or other material in any form, regardless of the means of transmission, created or received under the law or ordinance or concerning the transaction of official business by any agency. Public records may also be in the form of books, papers, maps, tapes, data processing software, films, sound recordings, photographs, etc. Public records are available at the state and county repositories and sometimes, through Non-FCRA Compliant third-party background check companies.
In Florida, public records are open to the general public pursuant to Article I, Section 24, of the Florida Constitution, which establishes a constitutional right of access to public records, excluding exempted records like juvenile records. The constitutional right of access to public records enables them to monitor the functioning of their government and conduct background checks on regular citizens where necessary. This ensures transparency and accountability on the part of the government.
The Florida Public Records Act authorizes the general public to obtain public records, upon request, unless there is a tangible reason why the request should be declined in line with the law. Some public records are not open to the public because they are sealed or expunged based on the request of the record subject, due to the privacy rights of the recordâ€™s subject, the confidentiality of the record, or because they are authorized to be exempted by the law. Examples of exempted records in Florida include:
- Social Security numbers
- Confidential medical information
- Birth certificates and cause of death on death certificates
- Criminal intelligence information
- Bank accounts, charge, debit, and credit card numbers
- Educational records and applicants records
- Intellectual properties and trade secrets
- Security plans
- Whistle blowersâ€™ information
Does Florida Allow Expungement?
Yes, Florida allows expungement for only certain records that qualify for expungement after a Florida Certificate of Eligibility for expungement test.
How Do I Expunge My Criminal Record in Florida
- The record is not ineligible for expunction under Â§ 943.0584
- The judge rendered a "not guilty" judgment or acquitted the defendant
- Evidence, charge, or other charging document was not filed or issued in the case.
- If evidence, charge, or other charging documents was filed or issued in the case, it must have been set aside or nolle prosequi by the State Attorney or a court of competent jurisdiction
- The applicant has never been judged guilty for a felony or a severe misdemeanor, as at the date the application for a certificate of expunction is filed
Applicants that are eligible for expungement in Florida may download and complete the Application for a Certificate of Eligibility or email the FDLE Seal and Expunge Section at SEinfo@fdle.state.fl.us to request that an application be sent to them. The application must be accurately completed with the first and last name, date of birth, sex, race, permanent address, mailing address, date of arrest, arresting agency, and charge(s). In a case where a person was only given a Notice to Appear and was not physically arrested, such person shall state the date of the Notice to Appear was issued, instead of the date of arrest. After the application is completed, the applicant must sign and date the application in the presence of a notary public or a Court Deputy Clerk. The written certified statement page, filled out by the appropriate State Attorney or statewide prosecutor must be submitted to the FDLE; this verifies the criminal history record. Typically the processing time to determine eligibility is 12 weeks from the date a completed application packet is received. Â
The applicant is required to obtain a certified disposition for each case/criminal charge(s) listed on the application from the Clerk of Court in the county where the case/charge(s) originated. This must be presented during the expungement application. In a case where the applicant was placed on probation, they should present documentation indicating the termination of the probation. For pre-trial intervention cases and other diversion programs, the applicant must present a copy of the pretrial completion certificate or a letter of successful completion, which may be used in place of a certified disposition.
It is required that the applicant is fingerprinted by a commissioned member of law enforcement or any other criminal justice agency. The applicant must include their name, date of birth, signature, and date on the fingerprint form/card. The applicant must also include the signature of the official taking the fingerprints and the agencyâ€™s ORI/stamp. A $75 nonrefundable processing fee must accompany the application unless the fee is waived. The $75 Payment may be made either in money order, cashierâ€™s check, or personal check payable to the FDLE. Ensure to fill out and sign the check/money order appropriately. Payment with cash, gift cards, or temporary personal checks will not be accepted.
Note that for an applicant that will be represented by an attorney, a letter of representation from the attorney on letterhead must be submitted with the application. Ensure that the appropriate mailing address is clearly stated on the letter. If the FDLE does not receive an attorney letter, they will only be in communication with the applicant. Â
The Certificate of Eligibility is only valid for 12 months from the date stamped on the certificate when issued by the FDLE. If the applicant fails to use the certificate before it expires, they will need to reapply to the FDLE for a new one.
After all required documents are obtained and payment is made, the applicant may now file a petition to have their criminal records expunged, presenting the valid Certificate of Eligibility issued by the FDLE and the petitioner's sworn affidavit stating that they:
- Are eligible for expunction in accordance with the state statute and they do not have any other pending petitions to expunge or seal a criminal history record before any court.
- Have satisfied all eligibility requirements for expunction, as stated in the statute.
The applicantâ€™s petition for expungement must be filed in a court of competent jurisdiction. It will then be examined and either accepted or declined or if the applicant does not meet up with all the requirements. If the petition is accepted, the Clerk of the Court will send a certified copy of the court order to the State Attorneyâ€™s Office or Statewide Prosecutorâ€™s Office and the applicable arresting agencies to expunge the subjectâ€™s criminal history record. From the actual time the Application for a Certificate of Eligibility is submitted, the applicant will have to wait for over 90 working days, excluding weekends or holidays for the process to be completed.
Ensure to obtain and personally keep a copy of all applicable documents, including the certified disposition, arrest, order to seal/expunge, etc. before the sealing or expunction of your criminal history record(s).
The FDLE also allows other forms of expungements, including:
- Juvenile Diversion Expungement - An individual who has completed an authorized juvenile diversion program for a misdemeanor pursuant to Florida Statutes Section 943.0582 and Rule 11C-7.009, Florida Administrative Code may apply. To get an Application for Juvenile Diversion Expungement, email the FDLE Seal and Expunge Section at SEinfo@fdle.state.fl.us, requesting that an application be sent to you. The applicant and parent or guardian (if under 18 years old) must sign and date the application in the presence of a notary public or a Court Deputy Clerk.
- Lawful Self-Defense Expungement - An individual may apply pursuant to Section 943.0578, Florida Statutes if no charges were filed against them, or if charges were filed, the charges were dismissed by the prosecuting attorney or the court. The dismissal may be due to a discovery that the applicant acted in lawful self-defense in accordance with the provisions on the justifiable use of force in Chapter 776, Florida Statutes. Â Download and complete the Application for Lawful Self-Defense Expungement form or email the FDLE Seal and Expunge Section at SEinfo@fdle.state.fl.us, requesting that an application be sent to you.
- Early Juvenile Expungement - According to the Florida Statutes Section 943.0515(1)(b)2, and the Florida Administrative Code11C-7.010, an applicant applying for an early juvenile expungement must be at least 18 years old but not up to 21 years old. The applicant must also not have committed any criminal offense, within the 5 years preceding the application date.
Others include Human Trafficking Expungement and Administrative Expungement.
Will My Expungement Record Show up on a Background Check in Florida?
Once a record is expunged in Florida, it is completely removed from public access and will no longer show up a background check, not even if the requester is the person whose record was expunged. An expunged record will only be accessible if the request was statutorily authorized or by a court order authorization.
How to Seal a Record in Florida
The procedure of sealing a record in Florida is similar to that of expungement. Eligible applicants pursuant to Florida Statutes 943.059 (1)(a)-(e) must first apply to the FDLE for a Certificate of Eligibility for Sealing. The certificate will only be issued if the applicant is eligible and has submitted a certified copy of the disposition of the charge to which the application covers. A $75 nonrefundable processing fee must accompany the application, except if the fee is waived. If the Certificate of Eligibility for Sealing is approved, a court of competent jurisdiction will order the sealing of the record and send this order to the applicable agencies that have jurisdiction over the record. They may then respond to the court regarding the completed petition to seal.
Who Can See My Sealed Record in Florida?
Sealed records in Florida are confidential and exempt from public access. However, access to sealed records may be granted strictly for licensing, access authorization, and employment purposes to:
- A criminal justice agency
- The Florida Bar
- Department of Education (or other recognized educational bodies)
- Division of Insurance Agent and Agency Services within the Department of Financial Services
- Bureau of License Issuance of the Division of Licensing within the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to carry a concealed weapon or concealed firearm
Note that unlike expungement that completely destroys a public record, sealing does not automatically destroy the record.
How to Delete Bankruptcy Records in Florida
Generally, in Florida, a bankruptcy record that arises from a legitimate cause cannot be deleted from a credit report in the state. Florida Bankruptcy Court does not have jurisdiction over credit reporting agencies. The law that regulates credit-reporting agencies is the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), 6 U.S.C. Â§ 605. According to FCRA 621(a)(2), a Chapter 7 and 11 bankruptcy record remains on a credit report for a maximum of ten years, while a Chapter 12 and 13 bankruptcy record remains for a maximum of 7 years. After the aforementioned time limits, the records will be deleted. For bankruptcies where disparities occur after filing, you can either file a motion for reconsideration of the order or file a notice of appeal for a fee. The appeal will be addressed at the United States District Court.
In addition, to get information on reestablishing credit and addressing credit problems, you may also contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Bureau of Consumer Protection, Education Division, Washington, D.C. 20580; at (202) 326-2222. You may also directly contact the credit bureau(s) reporting the information - e.g., Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion.
What are Florida Consumer Protection Laws?
Florida Consumer Protection laws are laws that have the sole purpose of protecting Florida residents from fraudulent business practices and enforcing their consumer rights in the state. These laws aim to ensure that residents do not fall into deceptive and unfair trade practices and financial liabilities while carrying out commercial transactions, and in the event of any hitch, they are authorized to file complaints with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS). Under the Florida Consumer Protection Laws are Florida Telemarketing Act and the Aftermarket Crash Parts Act.
In addition, the Florida Information Protection Act of 2014 (FIPA) protects the privacy rights of Floridians, thereby keeping individualsâ€™ sensitive personal information out of the public eye.
How to Delete Lien Records in Florida
Typically, liens are deleted when outstanding debts are paid off. In some cases, creditors accept negotiations, so you may attempt to do this. After payment has been made, complete and file a Â Florida Release of Lien with the County Recorder's Office where the initial lien claim was filed. A Circuit Court where the property is located may also be petitioned to remove the lien on the property.
To search a lien, visit your County Recorder's website and search in the section for liens. This may also be done in person at the County Recorder's Office.
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